The Los Angeles Lakers are slowly recovering from the early injury crisis that delayed season debuts of many players on the roster, including Talen Horton-Tucker.
Horton-Tucker is yet to play for L.A. in 2021-22 after suffering a thumb injury that required surgery in the preseason. However, he is getting closer and closer to his return as head coach Frank Vogel revealed the young guard was cleared for contact starting from Tuesday’s practice session.
The Iowa State alum has said he has been grappling with the temptation to come back as early as possible. But Horton-Tucker assured he patiently awaits clearance to play, listening carefully to the advice of the Lakers’ trainers throughout his rehab.
“Mentally I’m just trying to stay positive through everything,” he said. “Just the competitor in me wants to get out there. I’m just making progress. Cleared for contact tomorrow, so being able to get out there and move around with my teammates, so I’m excited for that.
“Of course, I want to get out there and use my youth, but I’m listening to the training staff and I trust them and my therapist is the greatest. So being able to have people like that is good for me, so I’m appreciative of it.”
Horton-Tucker said he has been doing “pretty much everything” without using his injured, right hand. He also praised strength coach Ed Streit for taking care of him during the recovery period.
The Lakers held high hopes for the 20-year-old shooting guard ahead of the 2021-22 campaign’s tip-off. L.A. challenged Horton-Tucker to improve his defense in the preseason, trying to bolster the team’s undermanned wing defense.
The 46th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft said he tried to boost his growth even as he watched Lakers games from the sidelines, trying to capitalize on being a part of an extremely experienced group of players.
“I’ve always said just being around a group like this is going to be key for my growth,” Horton-Tucker said.
“Being able to watch and be around; not even playing now just being able to watch and see how guys move has been great for me. It’s actually good just to see the ups and downs also.”
Vogel believes Wayne Ellington had ‘two positive games’ after Lakers season debut
Just like Horton-Tucker, veteran guard Wayne Ellington suffered a preseason injury that ruled him out for over two weeks. Ellington made his season debut on Nov. 4 in the loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He shot a decent 3-for-8 in the following game when L.A. fell to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday. Overall, Ellington’s form upon his comeback satisfied Vogel.
“Yeah, it’s another new guy trying to learn new teammates and new systems, which is part of why we are not winning more right now,” Vogel said after Monday’s shootaround.
“But he’s going to be somebody that really helps us and it was good that he was able to just play, blow it out in the fourth quarter the other night, play the whole quarter and see the ball go in a few times.”
“I think it just, anybody coming back from injury, it takes a few games to get their legs under them, to get their rhythm and timing right. And you add that to the fact that we have a lot of new guys to each other, it’s going to be a process, but two positive games.”
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